OBJECTIVES: This study examined the association of gender on the physical morbidity of individuals likely living with bipolar disorder (BD) using a comprehensive health-related database. It investigated the association between lithium dispensing (a surrogate marker for BD) and other health morbidities, considering age and sex.
METHODS: The cross-sectional study design used the 10 % Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) database in Australia for 2022. Medication dispensing, age, and sex were available. A validated algorithm inferred 45 health morbidities from dispensed medicines. Statistical analyses, including logistic regression, assessed the relationship between lithium dispensing, sex, and age with inferred health morbidities.
RESULTS: The sample consisted of 1,594,112 individuals aged 10 to over 95 years. A higher proportion of women than men were dispensed lithium (0.33 % vs 0.30 %). Lithium dispensing and age were associated with higher prevalence of inferred morbidities. Women dispensed lithium had a greater physical health burden compared to men, with higher odds of chronic airways diseases, diabetes, ischaemic heart disease/hypertension, inflammation, pain, psychosis, and steroid-responsive diseases. Conversely, women dispensed lithium had lower odds of cardiac arrhythmias and hypothyroidism compared to men.
CONCLUSIONS: This study provides evidence that individuals with BD, indicated by the dispensing of lithium, experience a relatively higher frequency of physical health morbidities, with women being disproportionally affected compared to men. The findings highlight the need for comprehensive care for people living with BD, particularly women.